First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson says Debenhams’ expansion into the southern hemisphere could mean Pepkor will bring Debenhams to New Zealand, although it will be some time before anything happens.
“This is another unique twist to the retail landscape which could ultimately flow to New Zealand, given Pepkor's footprint here through Postie+,” Wilkinson says.
“Debenhams have a contemporary brand which has had relatively good success over the past decade. Their ranges have been aspirational and they've done really well in the middle market.”
Debenhams has more than 270 stores across 27 countries, with a top-three market position in womenswear and menswear in the UK.
Pepkor will become a franchise partner of Debenhams to help it enter the Australian market.
A three-pronged agreement means Pepkor-owned department store chain Harris Scarfe will sell Debenhams products through its stores, help open Debenhams franchise stores in flagship retail centres and launch an ecommerce channel in Australia.
MD of Pepkor South East Asia Jason Murray says the company is delighted to have secured the partnership with Debenhams.
Murray says the stores will be contemporary, smaller scale flagships “which will be genuine modern department stores”.
Wilkinson says the strategy Pepkor is taking seems to be injecting the own brand product into their Harris Scarfe department stores to create new appeal, while looking for opportunities where they could put smaller-format, dedicated Debenhams stores in.
In New Zealand, Pepkor bought Postie+ in July 2014 after its previous owners closed 12 stores and axed 64 workers while under voluntary administration.
It has since made a bold return to the market by launching a rebrand and opening a new flagship store in Albany.
Of Pepkor’s strengths, Postie+ CEO Richard Lee said, “Pepkor has over 4,000 retail store fronts, across South Africa, Europe, UK, and Australia. They provide Postie+ with knowledge, experience, scale, and financial clout. Their influence can be seen throughout the entire process of a vertical business – from supply chain, logistics, design and all the way to stores and display.”
If Debenhams were to enter New Zealand, it would be a market disruptor.
New Zealand-owned department stores, such as Ballantynes, Smith & Caughey’s and Farmers, haven’t faced much international competition apart from soon-to-be-opened David Jones, which will replace Kirkcaldie & Stains.